A Star is Born: A successful, erratic Rockstar finds a rookie singer showing off her talent in a place that’s too small for her mesmeric voice and they embark on this enchanting journey that’s punctuated by Love, Despair, Jealous and Depression. This story has been told countless times. Despite the lack of freshness in the story, per say, the conflict of love, jealous and sacrifice, has been the beating heart that propells this story into greatness if told well, which Bradley Cooper does.
The introduction of Jackson ( Bradley Cooper ), the Rockstar, happens with an electric crowd, blinding lights, a brooding voice and drugs in his hand. Ally ( Lady Gaga ) is leaving work to go to the bar where she’s performing, as she gets out into the street, we see her walk into the dark lane and the screen reads ‘ A Star is Born ‘. Jackson is a bruised Rockstar, he does not have control over his life or his alcoholism and is burnt from within, by the fire of his past and its the same fire that lights up Ally’s timid soul when he meets and they, together, fireup the stage.
The first hour of the film sparkles with poetic undertones of a great romance and a musical that is both exhilarating and soothing. Look out for the scene where Jackson calls Ally on to the stage to sing a song she has written and Lady Gaga through her vulnerable face, conveys the nervousness in that moment, she gathers the courage to go and sings the hell out of the song, shifting the nervousness on her face into a jubilant disbelief, with ease. In another scene, Gaga and Cooper sit by a parking lot and talk and as Gaga, breaks into her newly written song, Cooper gazes at her stunning talent and says ” I’ll tell you a secret. There is a songwriter in you “. A secret he does not tell is, that there is a director in him and a damn good one.
Ally is on the Piano and is singing, Jackson is playing the Guitar, she is yet to come to terms with the love and fame she is getting. He compels her to sing ” Always remember us this way ” . Lady Gaga delivers an extraordinary performance and her physical acting in this scene is a testament to it. Her stiff posture in front of the piano, loosens up as she loses herself in the song and eventually she moves with such musical grace, as she sings the song that it gets difficult to hold your tears back as you witness her soul dancing in the newly found invigoration.
Bradely Cooper brings in precisely what is required for this role, we never really see his eyes, we only hear his muffled voice when he speaks and you can’t tell if he is under the influence of alcohol or not. The destruction of a Rockstar is played to the point by the beautiful actor, albeit it is his surprisingly good direction ability that has won me over and two frames do that for me. In the above song with Ally on the piano, there is a huge screen on which the performance is being projected and we cut to a shot, Jackson standing beside the screen that is showing a huge image of the newbie that has found a resounding acceptance from essentially ‘ his ‘ crowd. The frame depicts the main, enduring conflict of this story, the shift of fame, we see Ally’s fame outgrowing Jackson’s. In the same sequence, we see another stunning piece of visual storytelling where the camera is on the liberated Ally and the camera pans out showing us an image of Ally on one end and the projection of a bigger Ally on the screen, illustrating that she has finally realized her potential and has grown as a singer, in her own eyes. Pure Gold.
Its interesting that the problem arises both in the film and in the lives of these characters at the same time. An inevitable stream of jealous and insecurity seeps into this, otherwise flourishing relationship and so does the boredom into the film. The love and music seem refreshing but the pain and distress seem jaded. But the conviction in these performances by the two actors, keeps you invested in the story to care enough for the heartbreaking climax.
The music in the film is not pathbreaking but we get three fantastic songs, which are elevated to a whole new level by Bradely Cooper’s excellent direction. Lady Gaga’s heavenly voice complements her terrific performance. The sequence involving the song ‘ Shallow ‘ is absolutely soul-stirring and easily one of the most uplifting moments of the film. For the most part, A Star is Born is strung with scenes full of musically charged tsunamic emotional outbursts. A Star is Born is emotionally satisfying but falls short of cinematic greatness, by a whisker.